After the feasting and celebration following General Vector’s defeat, the next day, in stark contrast, was solemn. Even the sun seemed to be muted by high cloud, though it shone defiantly all day long upon the sombre proceedings.
As Head of State, I led the funeral procession down from the castle to the town of Vipava. The cortège kept a mournful pace, giving me time to relive childhood memories of happy days spent with my cousin Erasmus. We would always spend the school holidays together. Sometimes he would travel north to Caer Nonpareil, where we would play hide-and-seek in the woods surrounding the castle, or drop stones from the cliff down to the lake, counting how long they took to hit the water. As a young Princess, I was expected to comport myself as would befit a lady, but in truth I could not wait for any opportunity to escape the restraints of Royal duty. How I loved to join in these boyish games, shinning up trees with skimmed knees and hunting treasure. Though my mother and governess scalded me incessantly, they could never rein in my wild, adventuring spirit.
What I enjoyed most at this time were my visits to Erasmus’ Castle (then known simply as Vipava Castle): the Castle in the Cave. I was enchanted by the secret labyrinthine lair which lay behind and below it. Erasmus and I made several explorative expeditions, with nothing but tapers to light our way. This was most perilous and foolhardy of us, but we were not deterred in the slightest. I do wonder what became of this chivalrous adventurer, my cousin and friend. I suspect his vanity corrupted him, assaulting his good character as he grew older and won victories in battle, not to mention the affections of many women.
The circumstances of Erasmus’ death
I learned the story from Marijetica, the buxom wench who had been General Vector’s consort. Prior to this, she had served in Erasmus’ kitchen, and was kept abreast of all the scandalous household gossip. I told you in a previous missive that Erasmus had fallen in love with a commoner from Vipava, and that he was facing scandal due to her being with child. I offered to make her a Lady, but he would not have it, victim as he was to his own vanity and pride.
One fateful night, he told his fair lady Giselda that she must return to her family in Vipava, for she could no longer abide with him in her current state. She was devastated at this, and would not hear of it. Instead, she rushed to the cliff face at the edge of the castle and jumped to her death, her unborn child with her. It was a terrible tragedy, and the scandal was greater than Erasmus could have imagined. Nor did he count on the frailty of his own heart, which was broken the moment he lost his Giselda. He confided in Marijetica that he felt his heart was down in the crevasse with his beloved. He was not the same man in the weeks that followed: he seemed to have aged 10 years overnight, and he paid little attention to affairs of State. He claimed he was being haunted by Giselda’s ghost, and he needs must follow where so e’er she beckoned.
In his heartache, Erasmus became neglectful of his defence of the castle, and General Vector’s troops drew into an advantageous position around it. He was killed by a cannonball which destroyed the latrine while he was attending a call of nature. An ignominious end to a once revered kinsman. His remains were retrieved by some faithful soldiers following Vector’s defeat, so that his coffin might be interred in the proper manner. I commanded the gravedigger of Vipava to make a plot for him beside that of Giselda and her babe, that they might be united in death as they had been separated in life. I also commanded that her headstone be engraved with the name of Lady Giselda: a title befitting one whose heart was ever true.
Once the dust had settled on the sombre ceremony, I rode back to the Southlands with the rebels to prepare for the attack on Koronin who all the while held sway over my homeland to the North.
To be continued…
Read the story so far in the Chronicles of Lockdownia archives.